A man has been arrested for trafficking in pangolin scales in Bertoua. He was arrested during an operation carried out by wildlife officials of Lom & Djerem Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife with the technical support of a wildlife law enforcement body known as the Last Great Ape Organisation (LAGA).
He was found with 246 kg of pangolin scales at an uncompleted building close to his home at Bonis, some 9 km from Bertoua. A house search that follows after his arrest led to the seizure of 34kg of bushmeat, 3 more pangolins and monkey carcasses from his refrigerator. The 246kg of pangolin scales represents a massacre of more than a thousand of pangolins.
Following preliminary investigations, the suspect mostly carries out his illegal activities in the East Region where he activates a range of smaller traffickers from who he collects different types of pangolin scales, carcasses of other wildlife species which he stocks at his home.
The arrest and seizure come just days before the celebration of World Pangolin Day. On Saturday, 19th of February, the country shall join the rest of the world to celebrate the uniqueness as well as the plight of this mammal.
The trial that shall soon be starting, comes on the heels of a prosecution process that has kept the trafficker behind bars. The Divisional Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife of Lom & Djerem, Ombolo Tassi Engels Edding, speaking shortly after the arrest says he is expecting the trafficker to stay behind bars. He also provided information on what would be done with the bushmeat seized alongside the pangolin scales. He said: “the bushmeat will be auctioned and the money put in government’s coffers while the pangolin scales will be transferred to Yaounde”.
Pangolins have long been exploited for food within the country, but apparently, the demand from Asia for pangolin products, particularly scales, has fuelled escalating threats to African pangolin as reported by Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). Research also indicates that the high demand for Asian pangolins has resulted in a shifting demand from Asian pangolin to African pangolins. Early this year, on January 11, Vietnamese customs officers seized 6.6 ton of pangolin scales at the port of Tien Sa at Da Nang shipped from Nigeria concealed in a container said to contain cashew nuts.
The pangolin is an endangered species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)Red list of threatened species. The species fall under Category A of classified wildlife animals of the country and the 1994 wildlife law stipulates that anyone found at any time or place, in possession of part or whole of a protected species shall be considered to have killed the animal.